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Mol Microbiol. 1998 Dec;30(5):933-41.

Cellular function of elastase in Pseudomonas aeruginosa: role in the cleavage of nucleoside diphosphate kinase and in alginate synthesis.

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1
Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Illinois College of Medicine, Chicago 60612, USA.

Abstract

Elastase is a major virulence factor in Pseudomonas aeruginosa that is believed to cause extensive tissue damage during infection in the human host. Elastase is secreted in non-mucoid P. aeruginosa. It is known that secretion of most virulence factors such as elastase, lipase, exotoxin A, etc., in P. aeruginosa is greatly reduced in alginate-secreting mucoid cells isolated from the lungs of cystic fibrosis (CF) patients. We have previously reported that in mucoid P. aeruginosa, an intracellular protease cleaves the 16 kDa form of nucleoside diphosphate kinase (Ndk) to a truncated 12 kDa form. This smaller form is membrane associated and has been observed to form complexes with specific proteins to predominantly generate GTP, an important molecule in alginate synthesis. The main aim of this study was to purify and characterize this protease. The protease was purified by hydrophobic interaction chromatography of the crude extract of mucoid P. aeruginosa 8821, a CF isolate. Further analysis using a gelatin containing SDS-polyacrylamide gel detected the presence of a 103 kDa protease, which when boiled, migrated as a 33 kDa protein on a SDS-polyacrylamide gel. The first 10 amino acids from the N-terminus of the 33 kDa protease showed 100% identity to the mature form of elastase. An elastase-negative lasB::Cm knock-out mutant in the mucoid 8821 background was constructed, and it showed a non-mucoid phenotype. This mutant showed the presence of only the 16 kDa form of Ndk both in the cytoplasm and membrane fractions. We present evidence for the retention of active elastase in the periplasm of mucoid P. aeruginosa and its role in the generation of the 12 kDa form of Ndk. Finally, we demonstrate that elastase, when overproduced in both mucoid and non-mucoid cells, stimulates alginate synthesis. This suggests that the genetic rearrangements that trigger mucoidy in P. aeruginosa also allow retention of elastase in the periplasm in an active oligomeric form that facilitates cleavage of 16 kDa Ndk to its 12 kDa form for the generation of GTP, required for alginate synthesis.

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